Using a rat's body fluids to power an implanted fuel cell

This is the first time a device has been implanted into an animal to produce electricity.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Researchers may be on the verge of figuring out a way to power pacemakers with energy sources from a person's own body.

Keeping pacemakers and other implanted medical devices running can be difficult, since batteries can be costly and wasteful. Ideally, you’d want the medical device to run naturally inside the body.

Scientists have successfully tested out a biofuel cell that is fueled by the body's blood sugar and oxygen -- a resource abundant in human bodies.

To test this new system, the Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, France researchers implanted the biofuel cell into a rat.

Researchers looked at wires that ran out of the rat's neck to look for signs of energy production. After 11 days scientists discovered that the fuel cell was producing a decent amount of energy without noticeable side effects.

This is the first time a biofuel cell has worked from the inside of a living animal.

This type of device is expected to be the next generation of medical devices like pacemakers and artificial organs. For example, diabetics would benefit by having an implanted biosensor that can measure glucose levels and control the release of insulin inside the body.

The researchers still have some issues to work out. For instance, if the device misbehaves, then you risk consuming too much of the person’s glucose.

And the power it generates now isn’t enough for some devices. Since it can only make two microwatts of power for a few hours, this wouldn’t be enough to make a pacemaker run.

via National Geographic

Photo: asplosh/ flickr

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